The Oklahoma State Cowboys enjoyed a lot of success in 2013, finishing 10-3 on the season, thanks in part to a stellar year from their defense. A major part of their defensive success was the leadership and playmaking of the team’s linebacker group. But after losing their top two linebackers from last season to graduation, can Ryan Simmons step up and lead the Pokes in 2014?
He will certainly have his work cut out for him. Last year, Caleb Lavey and Shaun Lewis led the defense as three-year starters and both ultimately earned All-Big 12 recognition. Together, they combined for 166 tackles in the middle of OSU’s D, providing a strong presence that the rest of the team rallied around.
Simmons was no slouch, however. As a sophomore last year, he finished fourth on the team with 67 tackles and will be the team’s leading returning tackler for 2014. He added nine tackles for loss, a sack, and an interception as the third linebacker in the defense on the weak side, using his athleticism to get into the mix and make plays sideline to sideline.
This season, Simmons will move inside to fill Lavey’s position in the defense. Defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer will rely heavily on Simmons’ experience to lead a group that will be relying heavily on transfers in 2014. At Simmons’ old spot on the weak side, juco transfer Devante Adams will join Seth Jacos and Kris Catlin for some solid depth. Juco transfer D’Nerius Antoine and Michigan Wolverines transfer Josh Furman will team up to fill the other linebacker spot vacated by Lewis.
Linebacker is a group that is central to the success of the Oklahoma State defense. They have the potential be a special group in 2014 but they will rely on Simmons to lead the way as new faces get up to speed this fall.